My Friday Night All by Myself

I have been here in Ireland about 4 weeks. I have had a couple friends come visit me here. I have joined a cha-cha/salsa class. Some of the people I work with are on holiday. I haven’t really been able to join a church yet for a variety of reasons (mostly having to do with awkward transportation troubles when I first got here) – I visited a couple but none of them know me yet. 

So I don’t really have friends here. 

I was invited by one of my co-workers who is away on holiday to an event in the city: prayer, and a worship band and hearing some guys stories how they met Jesus. I drove the half hour or so there. Had my car out front and parked. Actually sat there with the engine running 10 minutes or so. Bottled it and decided I couldn’t go in and meet new people by myself and left. 

I know. As a Christian, a prayer event would be a great event to walk into. They aren’t exactly going to be scary (though I get how scary they can be if you aren’t a Christian or new to your faith). I just totally bottled it. 

Most of you probably think of me as the queen of extroversion with friends coming out of my ears. But the reality is I have a big shy streak I am able to mask most of the time. Tonight, even though I have been working by myself all day long, I just couldn’t go in and meet new people by myself again. 

So I drove to a cute cafe I discovered a few weeks ago and ordered a glass of wine and appetizer and read a book instead. I know that some of you are thinking that would be more intimidating. It’s eating by yourself. On a Friday night. The cafe by this hour had the lights dimmed and candles out so it was quite romantic and I could see people on awkward dates (at least the couple most in my viewpoint were – I couldn’t tell if they had JUST met and it was a first date and were just socially awkward, or if they were mad at each other and not speaking much). But I am okay on my own. I can read a book. I can have a nice glass of wine. Going and saying hi to new people sometimes just feels… 

so intimidating. 

Not sure why that is. 

I like people. 

I generally find that people like me. 

But sometimes.. the fear takes over and you find yourself by yourself on a Friday night reading a book in a romantic cafe knowing we were meant for community but not sure you quite want to make the effort. Don’t feel bad. I ended up having a nice chill night. Wrote a good portion of a new song. Came home and started learning a Jason Mraz tune. All in all it wasn’t bad. But going to meet total strangers? 

Sometimes we just want to be pursued instead. 

Don’t we all? 

"If ya wanna be my lover*.. ya gotta get wit my friends" – How to Get a Date with Me

Who can sing every single word to that wonderful 90’s song that the Spice Girls gave us?

“Me me me me!” Hahaha.

It’s true. I am surrounded by a lot of great friends and I knew a long time ago if a guy wanted to be serious about me he’d have to basically woo them too. Hey man, they have a girls back. 🙂 lol. I like to live IN community and not be an island. (Kbs’ rap Lighter Fluid now floating through my head) 

But I realized something else tonight as I was reading yet another article by Mark Driscoll (a pastor from Seattle I read and drink his sermons like water) and had read an article from a website called The Resurgence and quoted the guy who wrote it Brandon Anderson and got 19 likes already for his cheeky comment. I will settle in tonight to read a bit of JI Packer (a very old English pastor who lives in Canada). Tomorrow I will probably listen to a sermon by someone like Tim Keller or John Piper. Or maybe my home church pastor Joe Coffey in Ohio.

If a guy wants to date me.. “he gotta get wit my friends..” and some of them are alive and dead theologians and pastors and thinkers.

I know. Ridiculous. What kinda standards does this girl have?! ha. I realize some of you think I am loco and some are rolling your eyes at me.

But yesterday I realized it was completely true. 

I care about what a guy READS. I care about who is imputing into his life. I care because it matters. These are a few reasons: 

1.) What is IN a man is what comes OUT of him when he is squeezed (ladies too. ) 

We are kinda like grapes. If there is grape juice in a grape, when you crush it, grape juice comes out of it. Except we are highly affected by what we put in our hearts throughout life. When life crushes us does the truth of God come out? Do good things come out or wicked? Do we forgive or lash out in spite? Do we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us or get even? Do we think we are entitled and lord it over people or are we humble and gentle considering others better than ourselves? 

The kind of men who are attractive are the men who are unshaken by the storms of life because Charles Spurgeon has taught him that the Bible is reliable and a double edged sword to be trusted and relied on. A man who is repentant of sin and not controlled by pornography because Mark Driscoll has challenged him by the Bible that that is what a real man is. A man who is controlled by finding joy in Christ and leads me towards God’s beauty like John Piper exhorts. These are teachers I hope that he has. So when life crushes us.. and exposes what is in us.. it is the fruit of God changing a life through God’s truth and people who point to God’s truth. 

2.) I like to be challenged spiritually. I hope you do to. 

No woman wants to be the leader and have a guy dragging beyond her. Challenge me

3.) These guys (and others) will challenge you to grow up,   love others, love God and be changed by grace. 

Everyone wants to change. Be a better or new person. You can’t do it on your own. It is only possible by God’s Holy Spirit changing you. Look to people who can show you how to connect with him and listen to him and obey him. 

4.) From the guys I know, men need to be challenged my men. These guys are good ones to do it. Who is your role model? 

5.) Because we aren’t good as a species at just osmosing truth on our own out of thin air. Usually when that happens something wack comes out. Think of Joseph Smith or the Buddha. We were meant to live in community. Your community now has access to sermons from all over the world wide web. Get a group of guys, listen to a sermon together and discuss and pray. From a ladies point of view, it’s hot. 

So men, if you are entertaining the idea of asking me on a date, here’s a bit of the regulars:

Love anything by AW Tozer, Charles Spurgeon, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Louie Giglio, Tim Keller, Barry Cooper, Joe Coffey, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen (though I find him reallly hard to read, so maybe you can explain some of it to me),  current and former home churches listed above, there are a lot of others.. but this is just a list of my personal favourites.. 

I know this is all a bit fun and games. A post on theologians in lieu of my dating habits. But I will say to the ladies. What this has meant practically is a lot of “no I will not go out with you” from me. Politely. But a lot of nos. Not because I have scrutinized a guy’s book shelf. In fact I have never asked a guy who he read before accepting a date with him. I was once nervous about going on a date with a guy who read bad teachers. It turned out I was right to be nervous. I have been asked out a lot by guys here and there, ones I barely knew, on the street, in a bar, at salsa and my answer has been no every time unless he made it clear he was a Christian and loved Jesus. The bottom line is I want to wait for a guy who loves Jesus and is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. It is hard but it is worth the wait. Because that is a very different sort of man. It will become more clear in my 30-30 posts in the future on Marriage and Sex and Men and Women’s roles and the Change Agent post. A book shelf I realized is just a great sign post to the kind of man they might want to be. Not a perfect one, but one who wants to be changed by God and learn to lead a woman. 

           : the sexually abstinent opportunity to woo me and pursue me and date me honourably until we’d be married and then be lovers in that sense 🙂 

Big up to Fitness.

I love this. 
It is the one website I use almost every day. 

I get an email from them nearly every day about something useful: healthy eating, new exercises, old exercises, how to train for a half marathon, how to do krav maga as a workout, how to keep the training varied, playlists, sun safety tips. 

It is brilliant. 

Not fad ish. All the dieting and exercise tips are real and based on real exercise and science and not the latest quack fad on you know, “cutting calories to 500 a day and hoping to gain muscle mass.” 

When I was a kid I did a lot of exercise from my sport- 3-4 days of figure skating a week, lots of stretching, 5 miles of rollerblading a day, some pretty long cycles regularly. I got to college and rebelled a bit due to the volume of eating disorders and image consciousness. 

But after.. I remembered how much I liked working out and exercising. The last 4 years I think I am fitter than when I first started college fresh from my sports background. The gym membership is a big part of that, salsa helps a bit for random bursts of cardio, but this website has been a huge part of it because it keeps me from getting bored and I can try new things 

#13 Redemption  

Redemption follows along closely with forgiveness. 

I don’t know how it works exactly, but I know it’s true. 

It is the old magic that Aslan was talking about in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. 

Redemption is one of the most beautiful things in the world. 

We need it. 

All of us. 

Redemption takes what is broken and makes it whole again. It “redeems” something good out of the shittiness. Can I say that? I wrote “horribleness” and it didn’t quite sound right so I wrote shittiness. Sorry. That’s crass but you know when you get to that point where a situation, a person, a conflict, seems irreparable, no hope, no change, all is lost.. that is when redemption can be seen at it’s most brilliant. Redemption brings a sense of wholeness to a shattered piece of glass. There is a book I love called Death by Love by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. 

It is gritty. Raw. Honest. 

One of the stories that stuck with me after reading it a few years back is a story of a husband and wife. They were having problems sexually. Specifically the wife was and it was affecting their marriage. Finally after several years of marriage she breaks down crying and tells her husband that she had sex with his best friend just before they got married. Guilt had been weighing her down and ruining their intimacy. It devastates them and their marriage even more. I can’t remember all the details but they are in marriage counseling and the husband is reminded of being redeemed – bought back out of his sin and filth by Jesus. Both of them had become Christians after they were married and he was reminded to look to Christ who was his redeemer.. could he in turn give his wife the grace she was begging for? He is challenged that Jesus can redeem them and their marriage. Not many days later the man comes to his wife one day.. undresses her and gives her a gorgeous white nightgown and puts it on her. He says “this is how I see you. Clean.”

I sobbed my way through the end of that chapter. Their marriage was completely restored. The chapter was written years later into a healthy happy redeemed marriage. 

There is another crazy story about a man who was asked to pursue and marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him. She would prostitute herself amongst other men and she would have children by them. This man was commanded to pursue his wife and love her and continue to pursue her amongst the pain and rejection and betrayal of her sexual unfaithfulness. 

How insane is that? 

It is the book of Hosea from the Bible. Near the end of Old Testament. The story is of Hosea’s life and God’s request to him to pursue his unfaithful wife as a picture of how God pursued unfaithful Israel and in fact.. unfaithful humanity. God’s acceptance of us is not based on our performance but on Christ’s perfect life and our trusting him. There is a parody of the book of Hosea out there called Redeeming Love. Sobbed through that one too. Really good. Order it here.

I spend a lot of time in nightclubs and bars. This is because I am a crazy mad addicted salsa dancer. I love everything about the dancing, the music, and the culture of it. Salsa is a friendly place where everybody knows your name. But there is a dark side: you see a lot of brokenness in nightclubs and bars.. or traveling through the city centre of Newcastle on the way to them on a Friday night. You especially see a lot of pain if you are always sober enough to catch not just the obvious pain around you, but the small looks, the fractures, all the conversations you always remember in the morning, the details. As much as I love my dancing, sometimes everything around me gets to me and I cannot handle it and I cry. I have seen so much that seems beyond despair. Broken relationships, sexual addictions, lack of forgiveness, gossip, slander, mothers and daughters going out clubbing together and ending up barefoot, drunk, sitting in their own vomit in an alley and crying, infidelity. I remember being at a salsa event in another city once and seeing a man I knew was married kiss a woman who was not his wife. I think he had been married a year. I burst into tears. I barely knew him but it just saddened me so much. How do you handle all of that?

How do I live with a hope that ALL things have the possibility of redemption when I see a world of brokenness around me? 

1. I look to Jesus. Redemption is only possible because of him. He IS the one who pays for sin, changes hearts, mends marriages, breaks the bondage of sin and more. 

2. I look to the future.. to heaven when there will be no more suffering and pain and brokenness.

3. I do not check out of the world now. I engage. I do not become a person who sticks their head in the sand and pretends the world is alright. I daily engage in the act of really SEEING the world. Not averting my eyes to hide from pain and others suffering. I am honest about my own suffering and needs for redemption. 

4. I ask the Lord for help, to serve people, to mend my own broken heart, to know what to say in the midst of the despair others sometimes bring to me. 

5. I cry. Honestly. I do a lot and you might think me a wimp. Or if you’re British, wet. But. Jesus cried when he looked over Jerusalem and grieved. The empathy is part of how he made me. 

6. I remember my past sin, am honest with my current sin, and am wary of my future ability to sin and fall. I confess sin a lot – to Jesus and to friends who can pray for me. I do not think I am above any temptation. I remember that Jesus has redeemed me and spared me from much and is changing me. I focus on the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness offered to me: not thinking I have graduated from that. Ever.

7. I look to the storyline of the Bible… the entire thing is a massive narrative through various genres at how God is in the business of taking a broken and crumbled and sinful world and redeeming it.. making it new again.. turning upside down the upside downness and making the world right again.. he has started.. and he will finish it. 

I’ll be honest that sometimes I look at people and situations and am confident that healing and wholeness and restoration can take place. Other times I feel quite hopeless. God’s ability to redeem is not based on my feelings but in himself.. so I pray to him during the times I feel most hopeless. Asking him to make whole a person, or circumstance, or myself.. 

#12 Forgiveness

#12 Forgiveness  

I’ll be honest with you: I wish I was writing about anything else right now. The word forgiveness is near and painful to my heart. But this is the next post scheduled for the 30-30 series and  now I think it is time. This has been one of my biggest lessons in life and it is one that I think I will be learning over and over again for a long time. 

I find it easy to make friends. I love people deeply and easily. I am not easily offended. I have a lot of relationships in my life. I like people who are similar to me, but I have even more people in my life who are very very very different to me and I take delight in them. I make friends and keep them- often for life. People like me. I like them. I can say all this quite frankly for I am aware of it. None of my friends or family who know me would be surprised at this. 

But when I am hurt and wounded in a deep way; that is a very different story. I have often struggled with deep bitterness and unforgiveness. It is one of the deep sins with which I struggle.

I have hated someone for two years. 

How awful is that? I hated another human being

Forgiveness is not an easy subject for me. 

You and I all have struggled with it even though you might not go to such awful places in your heart as me. 

I have a friend who mocks me for being a Christian from time to time but I know he likes me deep down so it doesn’t bother me. I remember a conversation we had once about forgiveness and he said he didn’t buy all that “turn the other cheek crap” that Christians say. I can’t remember his exact words but was something to the affect of that being a bunch of bullshit.

I went away and thought about this long and hard. He was wrong. Jesus is always right. That’s how I knew he was wrong. But I had to wrestle with this one a bit. Too often people (Christianscringe, ugh!) throw around phrases like “turn the other cheek” and it just comes across as trite. Cheap. Cha-chi. Why was Jesus right even though my friend’s reaction had a lot of merit. Out of context bible verses and cliche niceties do not fix anything. 

We are talking about the deepest wounds: Betrayals. Lying. Manipulation. Cheating. Rape. Slandering. Abuse. Abandonment. The list could go on. You’ve been there. You have experienced them. I have experienced them. And we are supposed to just.. forgive? A phrase like “turn the other cheek” just feels .. cheap. The wound is gushing and we turn to .. a band-aide? If I was my friend and people had thrown cha-chi Christian niceties at me when I was experiencing my deepest wounds in life.. I might have wanted to vomit and say they were full of bullshit too. Actually I did once. Not the vomit part. The bullshit part. 

So how is what Jesus said true? I mean .. we are talking about Jesus who coined the phrase “turn the other cheek.” 

I go back to this every time an issue of forgiveness comes up in my life. During the years of my hatred, the Lord weighed on me like an anvil. Jesus says in Matthew 6: 

14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 
15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Jesus said that if I didn’t forgive, I couldn’t be forgiven by God. Shocking. Scary.

I claim to know him. I have to forgive. I have been forgiven much. I have to forgive others. Jesus doesn’t mince words. I like that. But it makes me uncomfortable sometimes. 

All of the painful memories, bible verses, and wisdom I had falling around me in terms of forgiveness welled up and finally struck me in the context of mulling over what my friend said. Why does what Jesus said about “turning the other cheek” even work in a real world of pain and brokenness? Spiritual truth does not live in the sky with fairies if it is true. It has to work in real life. God made it that way. 

“Turning the other cheek” works because Jesus said that in between the Old Testament Law of Moses and dying on a wooden cross as a substitute. It was not free to turn the other cheek. It cost him his life. In the Law of Moses the cost of sinning against God or another person was a blood sacrifice. Everything cost something and it was always blood. Every year during the Jewish Yom Kippur or “Day of Atonement” an innocent white spotless lamb was sacrificed to “atone” for the sins of the people. It would make people clean again. Forgiveness cost in blood. Then Jesus thousands of years after the Mosaic Law was given goes around Palestine saying crazy things like “turn the other cheek” and to “love your enemies.” John the Baptist saw him and said he was the “Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.” 

That’s an odd title. 

After three years of teaching and saying things like “forgive those who persecute you,” he went to a Roman cross.. to die for the sins of the people. He was betrayed. He was spit upon. He was abandoned by his friends. He was sold for 30 pieces of silver by a friend. He was mocked and whipped. He was nailed to a wooden cross. He was the only innocent person ever. As he died he said “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” and “it is finished.” 

What is finished? There is a cost to forgiveness. It is blood. No longer would the blood of lambs be needed.. but the sinless eternal Saviour died to make it possible. You see Jesus was not being trite. No one could “turn the other cheek” without absorbing a cost. He would make the ultimate sacrifice to bring us to God.. so my forgiven-by-God-heart could be changed to forgive others.. because I have been forgiven much. It cost Jesus his life. 

Forgiveness is not cheap. 

It is not free. 

It always costs someone something. 

It is costly to the one giving the forgiveness. The wounded broken party has a cost to bear to give forgiveness. 

They are absorbing something in a way. 

They are saying “you no longer owe me.” 

I can stop beating you up or verbally assaulting you in my head. (Notice how we always win those fights? I am fast and smooth and sharp as lightning with my words when I am shouting at someone in my mind. I always win.) 

Forgiveness does not mean there is not damage. Forgiveness does not erase wounds. Forgiveness does not mean you will allow someone to continue to abuse you. Forgiveness is not light. It is not being a pushover. It is weighty. It is costly. It is not cheap. Forgiveness is grace. It is giving someone what they do not deserve. 

All of these truths have pressed on me as I have continued to wrestle with forgiving people in my life. I can say it comes easier these days. When it doesn’t? 

The deep wounds that you know people aren’t sorry for and you can’t change the fracture they have caused.. 

I plead to Jesus who has forgiven me for a lot.. to help me forgive. I remember it is not cheap. I need help forgiving. It is often not a one time event. 

We did a night on “grace” this year with the students at one of our monthly “Story of the Soul” events. I picked this song to discuss as we looked at lots of different art and stories that illustrated “grace”. The song is sad. It makes me cry. It actually does not show forgiveness or grace. I picked it because it is real and it is what most of us experience in life when relationships end. This is what grace is not.

This song is not what is supposed to happen. 

But then I remembered a video. I saw it tonight again. It made me cry even more than the Gotye song. So click on the song.. where we all live much of the time. Watch an even more shocking video and let me know your thoughts. 

**the end of the story of my hatred was that the Lord changed my heart. He brought me to letting go of “what they owed me” and really forgiving them. They were not sorry. I knew this. But I felt a weight to go tell them I forgave them anyways. I expected to tell them and walk away. They were so prideful. But as we talked… and I told them of my journey to forgiveness.. they broke and apologized. Not an in-the-moment-I’m-saying-it-and-it-means-nothing. They broke down in tears over their own sin and were really sorry for all the damage they caused. I was shocked. I needed to forgive them even if they were never sorry.. but instead both of us found healing and our relationship was completely restored. It is even better now, nearly 7 years later.

#11 Conflict  

I used to go hide in the bathroom when I needed to cry at school. It wasn’t often but I thought you had to be strong. I didn’t want people to see me cry. I hated conflict. I am sensitive. I hate seeing people angry at one another. I hate people being angry with me. I had not seen conflict modeled well. Anger was often explosive from one party or passive aggressive from another. So my way of dealing with it was to avoid it. Lots of tears in private, but never addressing the party who hurt me.

Then I arrived at university and I was told one of the wisest things ever that has changed the way I have dealt with conflict since. 

Denise Scott: 
“Christy conflict is neutral! It is not bad, it is not good. You need to deal with this.” 

Conflict is not bad. It is not good. It happens because we are in a fallen world with sinful people. Avoiding it does not make it go away.  Addressing conflict does not have to equal screaming and shouting. It is also not avoiding it and pretending like you didn’t hurt someone, or they didn’t hurt you, or nothing ever happened.
When. It. Did. 

How has that changed me? 
Those relationships that were broken, that were hurting me back then, I addressed all of the issues with the related parties. There was no screaming. There was honesty. There was taking responsibility for my sin. There was exposing my vulnerabilities saying “when this happened, it hurt me or it said this to me.” “When you shouted at me, I felt devastated and worthless.” I know what you’re thinking… 

I feel statements sound ridiculous.  But they work. 

They dispel anger. 

And ALL of those relationships were mended. I am still friends with the three people I had to have those conversations with. A decade later. 

It has been a practice I have carried with me in my life to address conflict rather than avoid it and I have not regretted it ever. I am still grateful for Denise’s rebuke of a fraidy cat college student who would rather bury her head in the sand and cry than address pain and brokenness in relationships. It has saved me many friendships. And I have passed along that life lesson to many many people.. 

 Conflict doesn’t have to be avoidance 

or a boxing match! 

You are reading my Series. The top life lessons I have learned in the last 30 years. It’s a bit late but hope you enjoy as I continue along.. and if you have missed one.. Catch up below! Or subscribe so you can have them delivered to your inbox!

#10 Pursue People 
#9 How can I know I’ll go to heaven? Assurance.
         #8C Our Rights: A Secondary Rant from the NYTimes
         #8b God does not owe us a pain free life
#8 Our Rights: Killing the Cultural Entitlement Chip 
#7 Gratitude
#6 The Myth of Good People
#5 The Shape of a Worldview 
#4 Laughter 
#3 Grace
#2 Love People
#1 Jesus